With less than 2 months until go-day, I am finding the hardest part is balancing present with future. We have set our departure date to be in mid January for a couple reasons. Part of our current update has more to do with the current time of year and less to do with our departure timeline.
I want to approach this from all slices of life. In my book I call this the Life Pie, decide how big you want each slice to be. For me the slices of my life are:
Growth & Leaming
Fun + Recreation
Friends + Social
Love + Family
I think top of mind lately is health and a broader focus on well-being. During this time of year the weather grows colder and the days are shorter. It’s easy to sink into hibernation mode. My hours outside have dwindled and I find myself bundled and resting more frequently. Moving through the discomfort of cold is something I want to tackle in an upcoming episode. We are also approaching the holidays where food and portion sizes are abundant. Being aware of all of these things and choosing to move my body naturally leads to clarity and better well-being overall. Another key factor about present day and health is the open enrollment season for health insurance benefits. Again this will be an upcoming series on the options and share different considerations and mindsets about choosing the best path forward for you.
We are still finalizing decisions for next year, but I can share some observations thus far not having employer sponsored healthcare. My husband was a teacher who announced his resignation in April for the upcoming school year, was contracted through August. Given my daughter’s accident and surgery at the start of the year – we met all deductibles and given that we were stationary in-network did not want to start over in September so we opted to maintain our coverage through COBRA. For context, that plan is for family coverage with HSA option, $3500 in-network deductible and $7,500 out-of-network deductible. Our monthly premiums are $1500 for both health & dental. This is double what we were paying with employer-sponsored but given our income it was equivalent to options on healthcare.gov. I am actually relieved we stuck with this option as we had some incidents that made the best option for us.
I think next I’ll tackle Growth & Learning. For context we defined our gap year as taking a break from traditional school and W2 work. This is an area I think we have been most active since I publicly shared our intentions in August. Our kids are in public school until the end of the semester, this was their choice. My 7th grader wanted to participate in fall sports, My 5th grade daughter wanted to participate in her first band concert, and all of them wanted to participate in the ski club. We felt the routine and structure was important as my husband is coming down from employment. We had some interesting interactions on the school front. We haven’t formally filed the paperwork with the state to unenroll the kids however given that we are friends with many of the teachers there has been an awareness of our departure. Our kids are also eager and sharing the news more openly. On days off and some weekends we practice the format of home-school we will be conducting on the road. They have not complained and it seems very natural. In fact they really like that they have the freedom to decide what their day looks like and which items they want to tackle when. My oldest son soft-launched his fly tying business and he is eager to dive into this as his home school project!
As parents we also had significant growth and learning since August. I announced my resignation, having a very public role in the community is VERY public and the search for the new executive moved fast. Interestingly this opened up a whole new perspective that I’ll talk more about when I get into the work section. My husband is slightly ahead of me on the timeline as he has stopped W2 work in September and spent his days deciding what to do. He did some projects around the house, and tested substitute teaching for a friend who had a baby and determined he has no desire to do that again! What I realized is how much work with a part of his identity. He hadn’t decoupled that before leaving. It took a couple of months to find the right amount of structure to support his desire for contribution and allow the flexibility and freedom to decide when and when not to work. He is in a much better place now he is a subcontractor with a locally owned Construction Company helping with new construction. We have done some home repair projects are higher, but what I think he is most excited about is he’s also taking coursework to become a certified RV technician. Through our Network he has connected with another traveling RV technician and was able to ask questions and get insights from someone ahead of him and that really helps him move forward.
Next I’ll move into Love and Family. This is probably the most dormant we have been in years. No fall or winter (October through December) long weekend trips are planned other than a few up north visits to see friends in the RV and potentially a ski weekend if snowfall cooperates. We are trying to stay present in the opportunities of being home and celebrating family traditions. For example, we traveled for Christmas the last 2 years and made alternative holiday plans with family. This year we are hosting Christmas. We tried to be very open and our communication, and engage the kids in conversations about options, plans, and considerations for the future – while also being mindful of the present-day. Many days we express the desire to jump in the RV and just go. Staying home is a great lesson on potential energy (stored in energy) versus kinetic energy (energy of motion). Work days will be part of our travels. Sitting down over work or learning projects, cleaning their rooms and deciding what few things to bring. We plan to come home every 3 to 4 months so we have the option to switch things out. I am hopeful that this experience is already showing signs of deeper connection and relationships as a family. Most of our extended family friends and family know now and we have begun reaching out to friends and family and listeners around the country about the potential to meet up along the way.
From the friends and social lens we are excited about the meet-up mindset. This is what is driving our route and our plans. Formerly we do don’t have a route or itinerary planned. We have Concepts and notes with key experiences highlighted but we aren’t defining when or how long we plan to be in each location. This was the area 4 plus years ago that I was most nervous about. Feeling isolated as a family while traveling. We have worked through that pretty well and as we have made friends on our travels that we are excited to meet up with. Being mindful of the kids needs to play and connect with other kids. Many family and friends connections are typically shorter in time in a group setting. If we can invite others to meet up and have a deeper one-on-one experience like we’ve had while testing this lifestyle, I think my worries about isolation will drop dramatically.
I Guess one thing I haven’t addressed formally is the relationship between my husband and I. How will we make time and space for date nights? It’s on my mind and there is intentionality around that. Nothing mind-blowing to share, just that we are aware of it and will find ways to make it happen.
Fun and Recreation – I can’t stress enough how much the foundation of simple Adventures is supporting this lifestyle decision. We are extremely mindful (present and future) about the Curious ways we can experience adventure together and on her own terms. Things like visiting local libraries – which is where the kids will practice piano as many libraries have pianos available. In addition libraries have teen sections, a variety of classes and activities, books and an assortment of media. We also purchased an Indy Pass for skiing allowing us to ski 2 days at Independently owned ski resorts around the country – with our eye on the Rockies region and some of our favorites in the midwest. A fun travel hack we discovered is that many MLB (Major League Baseball) Teams have tickets available through travel rewards portals. This will help my son add a few more stadiums to his travel goal of visiting all the Major League Baseball stadiums. He currently has 11 left. We use this experience-based mindset as we approach the holidays. Each kid gets a 1:1 wishlist experience while traveling. The gifts my husband and I exchange will also keep the practical nature of these experiences in mind. In the current state, we are appreciating things we won’t have or be doing in less than 2 months. For example, I had a blast this morning splitting and hauling wood. I genuinely enjoyed it and my boys came out to help, unasked, for a bit. When I came in they had a self-designed art competition in the works. I am finding we are appreciating little things like the rocking chair, baking, and an abundant stash of craft items.
On the work front – As i alluded to earlier, my husband is slightly ahead of me as he decouples from work. The joys and challenges with that. From my perspective the reaction to my news has been positive. In fact many are excited and some even expressed jealously, in a positive light. What I didn’t expect would be the opportunities that would emerge. Having clarity about what we want our life to look like and not expecting work to freelance and entrepreneur I am noticing there are parts of being employed that I’m going to miss. I love my job and while it is the best option, I am going through a mild grieving process. I am intrigued and excited about consulting and contracting work. I have a few options on the table and I am also reminded of the reason I chose to leave my job was for location and time freedom. Allowing options to emerge to test without stuffing my future time with obligations is an unknown equation at this time! However, the freedom through full fledged entrepreneurship is not likely the step down I am looking for. Some outside expectations, support and structure is still to be desired in moderation.
Which brings me to money. Given the volatility of the market and knowing we are walking away from a steady income is nerve wracking. Some days are better than others and even though we are not financially independent, we are facing the perils of switching from a saving mindset toward drawing down. What’s funny is we are following the plan we made and it;s still hard. We gave our money a job and we are putting our money to work. Having faith in the process and knowing things will work out is the last slice of the pie!
To follow our Family Gap Year Adventure on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ordinarysherpa/
To learn more about Metrics of Thriving or “the Life Pie” referenced in this episode you can read my book: Beyond Normal: A field guide to embrace adventure, explore the wilderness and design an extraordinary life with kids.